CAN A PLASTIC LENS FOR LESS THAN TWENTY QUID BE ANY GOOD?

Dec 1, 2011   //   by adelia   //   Gear  //  No Comments

I wasn’t sure but it seemed that at £19.99 it was not going to hurt to try it out!

Of course, I needed a model – Mr Jenkins, our cat was hiding – so it was our six month old daughter, Chloe’s turn in front of the camera…

As you can see the Holga HL(W)-SN is not a high quality lens.  But the grainy highly vignetted image has a certain charm.  Of course it helps that the model is in my opinion the prettiest girl in the world…

This was my first attempt with the lens – since then I’ve used it to shoot another shaving cream advertisement in the same style as the ice hockey ad. in the previous post.  I have to say that the Holga shots in this new, mixed martial arts ad., are absolutely outstanding.  They are under wraps at the moment but as soon as I get the thumbs up from the client I will post it up here for you to have a look…

Since getting the (fantastic) Sony VG10, the wonderful world of cheap photographic lenses has opened up to us here at Adelia Television.  Whereas I have spent my professional life until now, trying to get the best quality images with the minimum of distortion/colouration, I now find that clients are over the moon with grainy, shallow focus, distorted pictures full of internal lens reflections and chromatic aberrations!

In the ice hockey ad. I used an adapted CCTV lens, with an enormous f1.7 iris.  It has a pretty shallow depth of field and a sweet spot for focus/exposure with a subtle, patchy drop off for both.  The large sensor of the VG10 apes the way film cameras work as they capture images onto large format 35mm film stock.  So the shallow depth of field and drop-off around the frame allows the cameraman to direct the viewer where to look in the frame – important to save time in the short television advertisement format.  Since TV ads. have always been shot on film cameras, the VG10 is a cheap entry into the lofty and expensive aesthetic of advertising.

So then, given the expensive aesthetic of the cinematic shots it captures – what does this Holga lens actually look like?

Well, it looks cheap – for a start it is made out of plastic!  It is also very slow – it doesn’t let a lot of light in, so out of direct sunshine, you will be stuck with grainy images as you ramp up the gain.  Also, the aperture is fixed, and at f8 it is tiny!  Focussing is pretty hit and miss too – as you can see in the image above you get; MCU, small group, large group and infinity markings.  But, the focus ring itself is stiff, and without any focussing aids on the VG10, a bit hit and miss…

As you can see in Chloe’s shot there is a fair bit of vignetting.  You will also notice it is not a smooth transition to black but blotchy.  When you look at the back of the lens it becomes apparent why.  The Holga has a little trick up its sleeve with pin holes around the aperture letting a little extra, unfocussed, patchy light illuminate the sensor giving a much more organic look.

So a horrible, plastic, low quality, lo-fi, lens with all sorts of technical problems.  On the up side though it is a quality moulding – sitting snugly in the E-mount of the VG10!

Despite all the technical failings I love it – the shots can be achingly cool – it is the best £20 I have spent in a very long time.

Creative photographers have always had a soft spot for these Holga lenses – I have a feeling that the VG10 and video DSLR’s will lead to an ever more fervent following in the world of the moving picture.

Finally, if you are one of Adelia Television’s clients – this is one of the key reasons that we are able to be so competitive on price – cinema lenses cost thousands – photographic lenses a lot, lot, less…

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